In January, many people decide to join a gym. However, research suggests that more than half of these people won’t make it to swimsuit season. Why? Because their goal was to join a gym, and once they signed up, they met their goal! During my 15-plus years being a personal trainer, I have become completely convinced that a person’s fitness level is primarily determined by how they see themselves in their own mind. If someone can use their imagination to picture themselves as fit and healthy, then this image prompts consistent fitness and lifestyle activities and a pursuit of improvement. This is a simple idea, but there are very specific things that must be done — deliberately and thoroughly — for the image to take roots.
As a fitness club owner, I cringe when I see the super-motivated January crowd hitting the treadmills on New Year’s Day. Sadly, most of these eager folks won’t make it past six weeks. The reason they quit is not the pain, time or inconvenience they typically site as the reason. Largely, the reason is that their internal processes are not established in a way that will support long-term success.
This is where Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) comes in to play. NLP gives you a way to begin to deconstruct the old images (the ones that cause the current behavior) and construct the new, desired actions. This is empowerment on steroids. As a starting point, it is important to know a little about the differences between the conscious and unconscious mind, because the unconscious mind is responsible for most of your clients’ results! The conscious mind is whatever you are paying attention to via the senses. For example, if I direct your attention to the feeling of your butt on your chair as you sit and read this, or the hum of the computer, this is your conscious mind at work. What we focus on through our conscious attention often enough gets stored as an unconscious program.
It’s these unconscious programs that direct our long-term behaviours, and of course, our behaviours determine our results. Sure, you might find that the super-motivated January crowd looks like they have what it takes. But you can’t use willpower as a crutch to the same old unconscious programs. So what should you do as a club owner besides just signing them up? Here are a couple of examples:
Start with these types of questions to help build in the details of their goals: When will you know you have attained your goal? What will this outcome allow you to do? What will others be saying when they see you? What do you need to get your outcome? Have you done this before? Can you act as if you already have this goal?
Be patient with them while they formulate the answers (as it can be uncomfortable) and calmly remind them that being uncomfortable with this is very normal and that they are on the right track.
Work with them on “reframing.” NLP works primarily as a linguistic intervention that changes how the client thinks, by reframing their experience. For example when a client says, “I am too old to get lean,” you can ask these types of questions: According to whom? What is it that you do now that you could not do two months ago? Has anyone your age been there?
These questions take a client from a one-sentence generalization to great pictures of how great they now look dropping two dress sizes, and how they can lunge across the gym floor with 25-pound dumbbells. Also, how they inspired their daughter to get into an exercise class, etc. It really is amazing! It is best to listen intently and let them start to formulate their answers.
I think it is important to note that this article is very limited. In order to assist your clients to change successfully requires much more NLP training than this article could ever deliver. What the truly successful NLP practitioners do is a result of much practice and becoming unconsciously competent at many techniques. Mental programs are a great place to help empower your members to lasting change and are a great way to retain them.
Marc Lebert is the owner of Lebert Fitness Inc. a world leader in developing innovative bodyweight training tools. He can be contacted at 905.785.0626 or by e-mail at email@example.com.
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